Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Inquiry on Maternity Care- 4 Questions and a Turnaround

In my work with pregnant moms, I often hear them express frustration about maternity care in America. I have expressed the same frustration at different times. Recently, I have been doing Inquiry, (also called "The Work" of Byron Katie) If you have never heard of The Work of Byron Katie, I highly recommend you check out the book Loving What Is or visit It is very simple, yet profound. It involves 4 questions and a turnaround. I often use it with clients, students, or on myself.

I thought it would be very enlightening if I shared a sample transcript of an inquiry on maternal care with you. This is a combination of several conversations I have had with different women, all of whom have given me permission to share while keeping their names confidential.

Pregnant Woman: Maternity care in America is horrible. I should get better customer service. What happened to service? They should take better care of me. They should care about my needs.

Me: Let's take the first statement. Maternity care in America is horrible. Is it true?

PW: Yes.

Me: Can you absolutely know that it's true?

PW: Well that is my experience and statistically it is worse than anywhere else in the world.

Me: Can you absolutely know that that's true?

PW: No I can't know about the whole world. But I know my experience.

Me: Okay. Let's take your experience. Is maternity care horrible? If you had to live with that answer for the rest of your life, is it true?

PW: Well. It's not always.

Me: Okay. Can you think of a time when it wasn't?

PW: Yes. (normally I would have her give examples. We'll skip that.)

Me: How does it feel, what do you do when you think that thought-- that maternity care is horrible?

PW: I get scared. I feel tense in my body. I want to cry. I'm on guard with the nurses and can't speak articulately to my doctor.

Me: Who would you be without that thought? And I'm not asking you to drop the thought.

PW: I wouldn't be me...

Me: Can you think of one stress-free reason to keep the thought?

PW: No.

Me: Who would you be without it?

PW: I'd be less tense. I'd be more open and trusting with my caregivers. I'd be more peaceful.

Me: Let's try turning that statement around to the opposite.

PW. Maternity care in America is not horrible.....

Me: Is that as true or more true?

PW: Hmmm. I see. At least as true. It's probably worse some places. And some people have good experiences...

Me: Let's try your next statement. "They should take better care of me. They should care about my needs." Is it true?

PW: Yes. They are in a service business...

Me: Can you absolutely know that it's true? Should they?

PW: What is the right answer?

Me: Well. What is the reality? Are they?

PW: No. They are not.

Me: So, if they are not, then that's the reality. When we argue with reality, we lose, but as Katie says, only 100% of the time.

PW: So they shouldn't take care of me?

Me: No, they shouldn't, because they are not. That's the reality. I'm not saying it won't change tomorrow. But they shouldn't until they do.

PW: okay.

Me: How do you feel when you think that thought that they should take better care of you and your needs?

PW: Angry.

Me: What do you say, think, feel in your body?

PW: I want to claw something. I feel really powerless. It's not a good feeling.

Me: Who would you be without that thought? And I'm not asking you to drop the thought.

PW: I'd be peaceful and enjoy my pregnancy more.

Me: Let's turn it around a few different ways.

PW: I should take better care of me...

Me: Is that as true or more true? When you are thinking about what they should be doing and it is causing you all that anger and tension--you are not being very nice to yourself are you?

PW: You're right. I'm causing all the pain myself by believing the thought. But...

Me: Turn it around another way.

PW: I should care about their needs?

Me: Is that as true or more true?

PW: No... Well, I guess if I birth the way they want me to birth and do what is convenient for them, then they would be nicer to me... But I don't want to birth their way. I want to do what feels right for me and my baby.

Me: Right. So if you left their office and found another care provider, could that be a way of caring for your doctor's needs... It sounds like you aren't his ideal patient...

PW: Oohhhh. I see. Interesting.

Me: One more.

PW: They should not take better care of me and meet my needs.... Right. Because they are not.?

Me: Right. And what happens when you argue with reality?

PW: I lose. 100% of the time. I get it.... I think you are right. I think I need to be more open with my doctor or switch doctors if I am going to get what I need. I need to take care of myself. I'm the only one who can control that.

The magic of this line of questioning is in doing it in order. You can't go directly for the turnaround or it is too harsh. First, you have to see what having the thought does do you. The fact is, we can't always control our thoughts. There is a part of our brain that generates distorted and untrue thoughts all day long--it is an old wiring for survival. (I can write more on that later). When we argue or try to drop the thoughts, they dig in deeper, but when we meet these thoughts with kindness and inquiry, the thought lets go of it's grip on us. Then we can think and see more clearly and almost always have more peace. That's inquiry in a nutshell. To learn more or watch Katie in action or work with a facilitator for free, visit


  1. Wow. That's amazing stuff. I need to do this with a LOT of things in my life, I think!

  2. Ah yes. It is truly mind blowing. I highly recommend the book. The amazing thing is though, once you start to do it a lot, you don't need to do it as much, if you know what I mean. It just begins to collapse all the related baggage and soon every time you have a suffering thought you just start laughing because you see the distortion so much sooner. I love The Work. It works with kids, too. On a simpler level.

  3. That was powerful to read! I am going to share with my readers. :) I also will try to learn more about this technique for me and my clients!

  4. You really should get the book: Loving What Is. It's simple and beautiful. Also, you should talk to Rebecca Overson about it. I think she's a certified facilitator.

  5. I can't wait to check out this book. Thanks for the post.



Related Posts with Thumbnails